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Government will no longer check structural safety of mobile towers after latest amendment

While the amendment was welcomed by the telecom industry, it casts doubts on the safety standards of such infrastructure.

The Indian government will no longer verify the structural safety of mobile towers after the latest amendments to the Indian telegraph rules were notified on October 21. Additionally, local authorities will no longer be able to set charges for the laying of optical fibre cables, which have been fixed at Rs. 1000 per kilometer.

“These amendments will ease Right of Way related permission procedures for establishment and augmentation of Digital Communications Infrastructure across the country,” a press release from the Ministry of Communications said.

The rules will allow telecom companies to accelerate the deployment of overhead optical fibre cables with a reduced compliance burden. The removal of these requirements, however, raises concerns regarding the safety standards under which such infrastructure will be built.

What changes have been made to the Telegraph Rules?

The Indian Telegraph Right of Way (Amendment) Rules, 2021 make two major changes to the telegraph act:

Safety requirements for mobile towers: Before the amendment, applicants for mobile towers were required to provide the following documents for approval:

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  • Certification of the technical design by a structural engineer attesting to the structural safety of the overground telegraph infrastructure
  • Certification by a structural engineer of the structural safety of the building on which the post or other infrastructure will be built
  • The extent of land required for the overground telegraph infrastructure
  • The location proposed
  • The approval issued by the Central Government for the location of the infrastructure which will be used for transmission of radio waves or Hertzian waves

These details will no longer be required of applicants for mobile towers and optical fibre cables, and government officials will not check for such certifications after the new amendment to the right of way rules.

Fixed charges: In the earlier version of the Telegraph Act, local authorities were given the power to decide the appropriate compensation for mobile towers and cables. 16 states and UTs had agreed to charge a one-time fee of Rs. 10,000 per mobile tower and Rs. 1000 per kilometer for optical fibre cables, The Hindu had reported. After the amendment, the only fee authorities will collect is a one-time charge not exceeding Rs. 1000 per kilometer of optical fibre cable.

MediaNama’s queries to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) regarding the amendment received no response. We will update the report if a response is received.

Telecom industry applauds DoT, says amendments will lower costs

Reactions to this move were largely positive with industry associations representing major telecom operators thanking the government:

  • Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI): “We applaud the DoT for its progressive approach in amending its Indian Telegraph RoW Rules 2016 to include aerial fiber. This directive stipulates that necessary infrastructure be built at the lowest logistical costs,” COAI said in a statement to the Telegraph. Members of the association include Reliance Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone.
  • Digital Infrastructure Providers Association (DIPA): “We are thankful to Hon’ble Minister of Communications for initiating the desired reforms for Telecom Infrastructure sector also. We are sure this is just the beginning and this amendment will pave the way for other major reforms in line, encouraging investments and faster deployment of critical broadband infrastructure in the country enabling rollout of 5G and various new technologies,” DIPA said in a press release.

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